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Papua arrests violate freedom of expression

October 17, 2014

Papua arrests violate freedom of expression

Watchdog decries worsening situation in restive Indonesian region

  • Katharina R. Lestari and Ryan Dagur, Jakarta
  • Indonesia
  • October 15, 2014

The arrests on Monday of 49 Papuan protesters represent a deterioration of freedom of expression, Jakarta-based human rights watchdog Indonesian Human Rights Monitor (Imparsial) said today.

“Freedom of expression in Papua is the worst in Indonesia. There’s a distinction between Papua and other regions in this country. It can be seen particularly when the West Papua National Committee (KNPB) stages rallies,” executive director Poengky Indarti told on Wednesday.

Dozens of KNPB members were arrested Monday while staging peaceful rallies in front of immigration offices in Jayapura and Merauke. They were released after nine hours of detention.

The demonstrations were held to urge local authorities to release two French journalists arrested in August, along with three members of the Free Papua Movement.

Journalists Thomas Dandois and Valentine Bourrat, who were detained while filming a documentary for Franco-German television channel Arte, stand accused of breaking Indonesia’s immigration laws because they were working on tourist visas instead of media visas.

Indarti called both the journalists’ arrests and charges spurious.

“If the journalists only violated immigration rules, just deport them. Why should they bother [with an investigation]?” said Indarti.

Indonesia is known to be overly sensitive about journalists covering issues in Papua, where a low-level insurgency against the central government has simmered for decades. The government rarely grants visas for foreigners to report independently in the region.

By branding all Papuans as would-be separatists, Indarti said the government has eroded basic freedoms of expression.

“If the local government can’t change their mindset, the situation won’t change,” she said.

Basoko Logo, spokesman of KNPB and one of the 49 detained protesters, urged the authorities to loosen its restrictions in Papua and West Papua provinces.

“Several police officers told us that we couldn’t stage a rally as we didn’t have permission,” he told “Since when does a peaceful protest need approval from the local police? The rule says that we only need to inform them. The local police don’t have the right to ban us.”

Father John Djonga, an activist priest, acknowledged that in the past some KNPB protests had lead to violence.

“Still, the KNPB members must not be suppressed at all times,” he said.

The arrests “violate human rights,” the priest added.

Police sources could not be reached for comment.

66 arrested, thousands rally for release of gaoled French journos, defying Police crackdown on calls to respect press freedom

October 15, 2014

By the West Papua Media team and local stringers,

with additional reporting from Tabloid Jubi and MajalahSelengkah

October 15, 2014

Photos report can be viewed here:

66 West Papuan activists were arrested by Indonesian Police in Jayapura and Merauke, Papua on Monday, as rallies calling for respect of press freedom and the release of two French journalists who continue to be imprisoned without charge, attracted thousands of people across Papua and Indonesia.

Indonesian police had prohibited the rallies in Jayapura and Merauke on the pretext that rally organisers the West Papua National Committee (Komite Nasional Papua Barat or KNPB) is an incorrectly registered organization, and that demonstrators may use the constitutionally legal but police banned Morning Star flag on banners, posters and paraphernalia.

Arrested by Indonesian police in Wamena on August 6 and 7, Thomas Dandois and Valentine Bourrat remain in immigration detention awaiting trial, with their detention repeatedly extended in an unprecedented case – which usually results in a simple deportation.

Indonesian police finally announced on October 14 that the two journalists would be facing trial on October 20, on immigration charges of "misusing a visa", a mere 70 days after their initial arrest with a local school teacher Areki Wanimbo, two farmers and human rights defender in Wamena.

The trial will begin on the Inauguration day of new Indonesian President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo, in a move clearly seen by most Papuan observers to be a direct challenge by colonial status-quo forces in Papua to the stated plans of Jokowi, to end the ban on foreign Press to report from Papua without restriction.

The plight of the two journalists has elicited record levels of support amongst Papuan civil society, in solidarity against the arrest of journalists carrying out their legitimate professional tasks.

The rallies planned to highlight the widely held view that the continued imprisonment of journalists seeking to report West Papua parallels with the criminalization of Papuan people’s right to Freedom of Expression, by Indonesian occupation forces.

Photos of rallies around Papua (Photo credits: KNPB, Ones Suhun WPM, and Majalah Selengkah

Many thousands of people openly defied the police ban, and attended rallies and marches in Timika, Nabire, Sorong, FakFak, Manokwari and remote Yahukimo held in solidarity with the detained journalists, and scores of fixers, human rights defenders and ordinary civilian sources that have been caught up in an unprecedented crackdown on the rights of Papuan people to speak with foreign journalists.

The rallies in Manokwari and Sorong were broken up forcibly by heavily armed riot police, however no injuries or arrests were reported in those centres.

In Java, members of the Papuan Students Alliance (Aliansi Mahasiswa Papua or AMP) in Surabaya, Jogjakarta and Bandung were joined at rallies by Indonesian civil society members. Despite being under close surveillance by Police, the Java based rallies allowed to proceed unhindered, highlighting the disparity in rights to Freedom of Expression between Indonesia and its occupied colony of West Papua.

26 KNPB activists were arrested at dawn in Merauke prior to the rally, as they gathered on the steps of the local Immigration office making speeches, and were forcibly dispersed and arrested by heavily armed riot police. Police later arrested another 20 at the KNPB office in Merauke, according to Tabloid Jubi.

In Jayapura, activists were outnumbered by heavily armed police, which intimidated many supporters into waiting at the sidelines of the area. KNPB activists regardless pushed on with a peaceful demonstration at Imbi park in Jayapura.

The 17 KNPB activists held a moving but silent vigil symbolising the absence of free media and freedom of speech in Papua. Jayapura Chairman of KNPB Agus Kosay told West Papua Media "we chose a silent action, silenced with a black cloth, because Indonesia silences democracy in Papua”

Police then moved in and arrested all 17, who are still being held by Police at time of writing.

"We want to let the world see, (Indonesia says it is) a democracy but the democracy practised is in fact anti-democratic for Papua," Kosay explained.

No Full Name Gender Occupation
1 Agus Kosay Male Chief KNPB Central
2 Bazoka Logo Male Spokesperson KNPB
3 Elieser Anggaingom Male Member
4 Regi Wenda Female Member
5 Ribka Komba Female Member
6 Jimi Boroay Male Member
7 Marice Mambrasar Female Member
8 Lazkar Zama Male Member
9 Isak Silak Male Student
10 Petrus Petege Male Student
11 Palina Pakage Wanita Member
12 Marten Suhun Male Member
13 Manu Moi Male Student
14 David Walilo Male Member
15 Deren Sorabut Male Member
16 Wilem Wandik Male Member
17 Tinus Heluka Male Member

Indonesian Police have regularly changed their at-times-wild allegations that Bourrat and Dandois – who openly admitted they were operating in West Papua without a highly restrictive and rarely granted Journalism Visa and reporting permit for West Papua – have variously been involved in subversion, illegal arms transfers, espionage, supporting armed groups, and part of a foreign conspiracy to undermine Indonesia. Despite the public slander campaigns in the media by the colonial Police forces in Papua, the final charge of "misuse of a visa" is clearly a backdown, at the same time as it is handing a gauntlet to the new administration of President Widodo.

An international campaign led by Paris-based Reporters without Borders has also called on Indonesia to immediately release the pair, saying they were engaged in nothing more that independent, legitimate journalism activities. A petition launched by Reporters Without Borders and the Bourrat and Dandois support committee has been signed by more than 8,000 people worldwide.

Reporters Without Borders via a press release on October 15 "appeals to the Indonesian justice system, now responsible for their continuing detention, to release the two journalists and dismiss all charges."

"Reporters Without Borders again calls for a display of leniency by the authorities in this case. Indonesia cannot pride itself on being the world’s third biggest democracy without respecting fundamental freedoms and human rights," it said.

The Paris-based media safety organisation also highlighted Indonesia’s obligations to Press Freedom, by noting "As one of the latest countries to sign the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, in 2006, Indonesia cannot ignore the UN Human Rights Committee’s General Comment No. 34, adopted in 2011. This comment says that it is breach of the covenant to “restrict freedom of movement of journalists and human rights investigators within the state party (including to conflict-affected locations, the sites of natural disasters and locations where there are allegations of human rights abuses).”

West Papua Media network members have also been caught up in the Indonesian police and army crackdown since the arrest of Bourrat and Dadois, including several local personnel who have been subjected to repeated death threats from Indonesian intelligence agencies. Over 24 of our network members were under various degrees of security threats within West Papua, with family members threatened for speaking with the French journalists. West Papua Media had been providing legitimate journalistic fixing services to Bourrat and Dandois for interviews with civil society figures outside of the Highlands. Protection measures have now been put in place, enabling network members to return to newsgathering tasks over the last week, after having operations and reportage severely curtailed by serious security threats and incidents.

Physical threats and active surveillance to WPM personnel were also extended to key members of it editorial staff in Australia, with Indonesian Police Spokesman Sulistyo Pudjo saying that WPM Editor Nick Chesterfield was also to be charged with Espionage and subversion, and would be seeking and attempting extradition to Indonesia. West Papua Media is still exploring legal options against the Indonesian police for defamation and stalking by sending its agents to carry out illegal activities on Australian soil.

Sign ETAN’s petition. Tell the U.S. to reveal…

October 15, 2014
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Sign ETAN’s petition. Tell the U.S. to reveal all it knows about the mass killings in Indonesia and acknowledge the crime.

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Sign Now! U.S. Release the Records, Acknowledge U.S. Role in 1965/66 Mass Violence in Indonesia
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AWPA: Summary of events in West Papua for September 2014

October 14, 2014

Australia West Papua Association (Sydney)

PO Box 28, Spit Junction, NSW 2088

Summary of events in West Papua for September 2014- 11 October

The Australia West Papua Association offers its condolences to the family and friends of John Ondawame who died in Port Vila on the 4 September from a heat attack. John had dedicated his life to the liberation of West Papua. He will be sorely missed. John was from the Amungme tribe in Mimika regency in the territory of West Papua. He was the vice-chairman of the West Papua National Coalition for Liberation (WPNCL). After Indonesia’s take over of the former Dutch colony of Netherlands New Guinea and seeing first hand Indonesia’s brutal occupation, John eventually took to the bush and became a member of the OPM, the Free Papua Movement. After crossing the border into PNG to discuss an incident of hostage taking (by the OPM) with the PNG Government, he was arrested and eventually accepted by Sweden as a refugee, gaining Swedish nationality.

During his time in Australia he made many friends while campaigning to raise awareness about West Papua. He met his first wife Dolly Zonggonau while studying here. He obtained his PHD degree in political science from the ANU in Canberra in 2000, MSc degree from the University of Western Sydney in 1995, Graduate Diploma from the University of Sydney in 1994. He was one of the founding coordinators of the West Papua Project at the University of Sydney’s Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies and also one of the founding members (with Rex Rumakiek) of the Australia West Papua Association in Sydney. His PhD resulted in his book, "One People One Soul" West Papuan Nationalism and the Organisasi Papua Meredka (2010)

In 2003 he gained residence in Vanuatu, one of the few countries supporting West Papua in international fora. He died on the 4th of September 2014 in Port Vila, Vanuatu from a massive heart attack. He leaves behind his second wife Leisani from FIJI and his young son Jacob. It says something of John’s stature that at his burial in Vila the Prime Minister of Vanuatu Joe Natuman, with other politicians attended the ceremony. The Prime Minister of Vanuatu also mentioned John in his statement delivered at the 691h Session of the United Nations General Assembly 29th September 2014, UN Headquarters, New York

“I cannot close this section of my speech without paying tribute to late Dr. John Ondowame, a Freedom fighter from West Papua who passed away last month while in exile in my country. He was laid to rest in my country as a hero who had fought for the rights to self-determination for the people of West Papua. He and other martyrs had a dream that one day the United Nations and all nations advocating and promoting the democratic principles will, hear their cries and deliver the promise of a self-determined future. At his funeral service, I stated that his struggle for freedom and justice will continue to be our struggle until colonialism is eradicated”.

Memorial services were held in West Papua and the region in his memory. Photos of the service in Vila at and in Sydney at

French Journalists

Much of the media attention on West Papua in the past month focused on the arrest of the two French Journalists Valentine Bourrat and Thomas Dandois who were arrested on the 6th of August in Wamena and remain detained in Jayapura. They could face up to five years in prison. Their case has now been handed over to Papua’s chief prosecutor and it was reported that it will go to court within seven days. The media organisation Reporters Without Borders has launched a petition for the immediate release of the pair. Its Secretary General, Christophe Deloire, says they did not apply for press visas because they are rarely granted, and would have resulted in restrictions on their ability to report freely. Numerous rallies have been held by solidarity groups calling for their release including in New Zealand and Australia. Photos of the Sydney rally at

On Monday 13 October a peaceful rally by Papuan Students will be held in Bandung in West Java calling for the release of journalists. In New Zealand Green Party MP Catherine Delahunty has urged the returning government in New Zealand to make good on the recently passed parliament resolution to press for media freedom in West Papua. In Australia the Senate passed a motion by Greens senator Richard Di Natale with the explicit support from the Foreign Minister’s office, expressing concern over the imprisonment of two French journalists for reporting in Indonesia’s restive province using tourist visas. The Senate called for the Australian government to request Thomas Dandois and Valentine Bourrat’s release.;fileType=application%2Fpdf

Papuans behind bars

In its latest update Papuans behind bars reported that at the end of September 2014, there were at least 74 political prisoners in Papuan jails. It also noted that reports of attacks against lawyers in Papua indicate that the situation is becoming worse for those involved in human rights work. Full report at

Tapol released an appeal concerning the Intimidation of prominent Papuan lawyer and human rights defender Gustaf Kawer which has provoked a local, national and international outcry. Mr Kawer, who has provided legal defence for numerous cases involving peaceful political activity and indigenous land disputes, has bizarrely been summoned by Papua police as a witness in a case against himself. The case has been brought by a court judge after Mr Kawer criticized the judge for ignoring his request for the trial to be delayed, to allow himself and his client to be present at the hearing of a case involving an indigenous land dispute with the government. To date Mr Kawer has received two summonses from the police and is threatened with prosecution under Articles 211 and 212 of the Penal Code. If proceedings continue Mr Kawer could potentially face up to four years imprisonment.

AWPA also wrote concerning the intimidation againstGustaf Kawer

Amnesty International released an U/A concerning an attack on another human rights lawyer Anum Siregar in Wamena, Papua province. Anum Siregar was attacked by an unknown person at about 11pm on 16 September on the way back to her hotel from a court hearing. The attacker, armed with a knife, stole her bag and injured her hand before fleeing the scene. Anum Siregar received treatment for her injuries at Wamena hospital, requiring at least two stitches.

In brief

OPM member killed. The Jakarta Globe reported that a member of the OPM was killed and several were wounded in a firefight with security officers at an airfield in Lanny Jaya district on the 17. The shootout is believed to have involved about 30 OPM fighters from a group led by Puron Wenda.

Soldier killed. A soldier was killed in an armed attack in Puncak Jaya Regency in Papua on Sept. 25. A spokesman for the Papua military command Lt. Col. Rikas Hidayatullah told the Jakarta Globe that four members of the Indonesian Military (TNI) were ambushed at a traditional market in Ilaga on Sept. 25. The soldiers, who were picking up supplies for the inauguration of Ilaga district’s new chief, were fired at by a group of 10 men, he said. A soldier identified as Second Private Abraham was reportedly shot in the head. The attackers then snatched Abraham’s weapon before fleeing into the jungle. No other soldiers were injured.

NZ Foreign Minister urges media access for Papua

RNZI 15 September. New Zealand’s Foreign Minister has expressed hope that Indonesia’s president-elect Joko Widodo will open up Papua region to international media. This comes as two French journalists remain detained in Jayapura following their arrests in Papua over a month ago for alleged visa violations. Johnny Blades reports. "During his recent campaign, Jokowi said there was no impediment to opening up Papua which is restricted for foreign journalists. New Zealand’s Murray McCully says his government hopes that once in power, Jokowi will move to relax the rules related to media access and ensure that journalists have the opportunity to report on Papua. Mr McCully also voiced concern about recent Indonesian police mistreatment of two young West Papuans. Amnesty International says the pair, who had painted pro-independence signs in Manokwari, were tortured, beaten, forced to roll in a sewer filled with dirty water and to drink paint. One of them is facing an incitement charge."

Statements on Papua Delivered before Human Rights Council

The following two statements on the situation of human rights defenders and freedom of expression in Papua which were delivered on 15 and 16 September 2014 during the 27th Session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.

Nobel Peace Prize

The Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to India’s Kailash Satyarthi and Pakistan’s Malala Yousafzai for their struggles against the suppression of children and for young people’s rights, including the right to education..

For the second year in a row, Free West Papua Campaign founder Benny Wenda had been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, an honour in itself.

Indonesian government to construct road in Papua`s middle mountain area

Kamis, 25 September 2014 1

Jayapura, Papua (ANTARA News) – The Public Works Ministry is prioritizing the construction of a road in the middle mountain area of Papua Province giving the local people another option besides air transportation. His institution is prioritizing the road development that connects several districts, Chief of the Tenth National Road Project Agency, Thomas Setiabudi, told ANTARA here Thursday. The roads will connect districts that are located in the mountain area with areas located on the coast, Thomas said. The ministry is developing a road that connects Wagete to Timika, and from there it will continue to Paniai, Nabire and Ilaga districts. They will also develop a road from Wamena-Habema-Kenyam that will continue to the Dekai-Oksibil-Iwur-Tanah Merah areas, Thomas said. The road will connect to other areas such as Yetti, Senggi, Usku and Mamberamo apart from Tenggon, Elelim and Wamena. The Papuan people can use several roads that have been connected including Wamena to Mulia, Wamena to Tiom and Nabire to Enarotali. "Even the road that connects Jayapura and Mamberamo can be used even though it is only connected by a bridge," Thomas said. Additionally, the ministry will also develop several roads that connect the coastal areas such as Jayapura-Sarmi and Serui-Menawi-Saubeba. "We hope none of the regions will be isolated after the increasing number of areas that will be connected through the roads," Thomas added. (Uu.B019/INE/KR-BSR/A014)

West Papua meeting confirmed for December

RNZI 26 September 2014. Vanuatu’s West Papua Unification Committee has confirmed its conference in Port Vila will now be held from the 4th of December following the National Day and flag raising ceremony on the first. The chairman of the committee Pastor Allan Nafuki says the delay will allow the 80 invited West Papuan delegates to raise funds and prepare their travel documentation to ensure maximum attendance. He says the conference is to provide an avenue for the different groupings in West Papua to come to an agreement on a unified bid for membership in the Melanesian Spearhead Group. A formal membership application by the West Papua National Coalition for Liberation was knocked back by the MSG earlier this year, whose leaders called for a more representative bid.

Opinion pieces/press releases/reports etc.

Student spies Lateline Report

A reply from DFAT to AWPA letter of

Q&A: Australia’s reaction to arrest of French journalists in West Papua

Revisiting Indo-Oz defense treaty sans mutual trust

Early ‘minefield’ to test Jokowi

Thanks to MIFEE, 3.6% of Indonesia’s Emissions produced in Merauke.


Is the Scottish referendum anything we can learn from?

Freeport’s Indonesia copper mine must improve safety or face more protests – union

September 2014: Culture of impunity in Papua threatens human rights and democracy

October 9, 2014

At the end of September 2014, there were at least 74 political prisoners
in Papuan jails.

New reports of attacks against lawyers in Papua indicate that the
situation is becoming worse for those involved in human rights work. A
public attack on Latifah Anum Siregar, a lawyer with the Democracy
Alliance for Papua (Aliansi Demokrasi untuk Papua, ALDP) and the failure
of Indonesian authorities to end legal intimidation towards Gustaf Kawer,
as reported in our previous update, demonstrates the dangers faced by
lawyers involved in politically sensitive cases.

Reports from the Advocacy Network for Upholding Law and Human Rights
(Jaringan Advokasi Penegakan Hukum dan HAM Pegunungan Tengah Papua,
JAPH&HAM), based in Wamena, described police complicity in allowing
violence to continue during a fight that broke out between two groups in
Lanny Jaya. Two traditional honai houses belonging to tribal leader and
political detainee Areki Wanimbo were burned down by an opposing group
during the violence, whilst Jayawijaya Regional police reportedly watched
and failed to stop the incident from occuring. Another incident involving
police complicity in allowing violence reportedly took place in Youtefa
Market in Abepura. David Boleba, an indigenous Papuan, was publically
tortured, mutilated and murdered by a group of non-Papuan youths,
reportedly in the presence of an Abepura District police officer. Again,
the police officer took no action against the perpetrators.

There were several reports of random acts of police brutality against
indigenous Papuans. A 15-year-old boy was shot in the leg three times by
members of the police Mobile Brigades (Brigades Mobil, Brimob) for simply
blocking their vehicle. In another case, a student of Cenderawasih
University (Universitas Cenderawasih, UNCEN) and activist with the West
Papua National Committee (Komite Nasional Papua Barat, KNPB) Rigo Wenda
was publically tortured in Waena by Indonesian army officers with bayonet
blades in a random act of violence.

Information received by ALDP detailed the torture and cruel and degrading
treatment faced by 18 men arrested in Wamena in the Boycott Presidential
Elections case. Despite the fact that they were initially arrested for
peacefully calling for an election boycott, they were instead charged for
reportedly making and using explosives. The criminalisation of the freedom
to not participate in a democratic process is an undemocratic step
backwards for Indonesia.

Indigenous Papuans from the highlands, such as areas like Wamena, are
often automatically deemed to be separatists by Indonesian authorities.
Because of this stigmatisation, security forces often take a heavy handed
approach with highlanders and single them out for arrests, intimidation
and torture. Reports received this month described continued violent
reprisals against indigenous communities in Wamena. Security forces
continued to burn down houses as they hunt for members of armed
pro-independence movements.

Indonesian authorities have so far failed to investigate into the murder
of KNPB Sorong leader Martinus Yohame. It remains to be seen if steps will
be taken towards accountability and justice, or if like previous cases of
murder of Papuan activists, it will go uninvestigated and unpunished. The
entrenched culture of impunity that currently runs throughout police and
military units in Papua poses a serious threat to human rights and
democracy in Indonesia.

You can read the full update here:

The full Update is also attached – we hope you find this information useful.

With best wishes,

Papuans Behind Bars team

Papuans Behind Bars September 2014.docx

Widodo challenged, access, indigenous land rights, Scotland, Fiji, MIFEE, Vanuatu

October 7, 2014

Widodo challenged, access, indigenous land rights, Scotland, Fiji, MIFEE, Vanuatu

West Papua Report
October 2014

This is the 126th in a series of monthly reports that focus on developments affecting Papuans. This series is produced by the non-profit West Papua Advocacy Team (WPAT) drawing on media accounts, other NGO assessments, and analysis and reporting from sources within West Papua. This report is co-published by the East Timor and Indonesia Action Network (ETAN). Back issues are posted online at edmcw. If you wish to receive the report directly via e-mail, send a note to etan. Link to this issue:.

The Report leads with "Perspective," an analysis piece; followed by "Update," a summary of some developments during the covered period; and then "Chronicle" which includes analyses, statements, new resources, appeals and action alerts related to West Papua. Anyone interested in contributing a Perspective or responding to one should write to edmcw. The opinions expressed in Perspectives are the author’s and not necessarily those of WPAT or ETAN.For additional news on West Papua see the reg.westpapua listserv archive or on Twitter.


This month’s PERSPECTIVE by WPAT’s Edmund McWilliams looks at the challenges facing incoming President Joko Widodo, including those posed by West Papua.

This edition’s UPDATE groups urge police to provide security to West Papua human rights defenders and reviews growing Indonesian and international calls for an end to repression in West Papua with particular focus on demands for an end to restrictions on access by journalists and others to West Papua. The surge in concern is prompted in large measure by the continued detention of two French journalists whose has been the focus of numerous appeals for their prompt release (see September 2014 West Papua Report). A local Papuan official drew attention to the release of greenhouse gases associate with the MIFEE project. A West Papuan conference hosted by Vanuatu has been postponed to December. Attacks on Indonesian security forces in the Papuan highlands continued in September. Indonesia’s national Human Rights Commission is holding a series of hearings on the land rights of indigenous peoples, including in West Papua, The U.S. military has begun training for Indonesian military personnel with the AH-64 Apache helicopters which will enhance TNI capacity to conduct "sweep" operations in West Papua.

CHRONICLE notes an analysis by Al Jazeera America of the targeting of journalists in West Papua. Fijian NGO urges government to support West Papua, The September referendum which afforded Scotland a vote on their political status prompted several analyses that highlighted the continuing denial of the right to self-determination in West Papua.


President-elect Widodo Faces Many Challenges
by Ed McWilliams

President-elect Joko "Jokowi" Widodo faces serious challenges prepares to take office. In the Indonesian parliament (DPR), the parties that he defeated in the presidential election are moving to counter his reform agenda. And the old elites, who have long sought to restore their control over the political process, have recently made significant headway in rolling back the democratic reforms of the past 16 years.

During an early morning session of the national parliament (DPR), losing Presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto’s "Red and White" coalition passed legislation ending direct election of local officials on September 26. The vote restores the practice of Regional Representative Councils (DPRD) selecting governors and mayors. The Red and White Coalition currently controls at least 31 provincial legislatures, and should the coalition remain stable, it could easily pick nearly all of the nation’s governors. The national Parliament also changed its own rules such that Widodo’s PDI-P – the party with the most representatives – and its partner parties are frozen out of all legislative leadership posts.

The Prabowo-led coalition is now seeking t o end to the direct election of the President. If it succeeds the Suharto-era practice of parliament selecting the president would be restored.

A large majority of Indonesian voters are opposed to these changes, which pose a fundamental challenge to the democratic progress made since the dictator Suharto was overthrown. A number of demonstrations and online protests were held prior to and after the vote, and a number of legal challenges to the change in elections are in the courts.


The threat posed to this assertion of parliamentary power to Widodo’s own tenure should not be dismissed. A draft plan to revise the regulations of Indonesia’s upper house, the People’s Consultative Assembly (MPR), would make it easier to remove a President. Parliament could exploit or create a crisis to provide a basis to remove the President.

In practical terms, such a bold move could only be done with the consent, or conceivably at the behest of the Indonesian military (TNI). This happened in 2001, when President Abdurrahman Wahid, popularly known as Gus Dur, a reformer on many fronts, notably regarding the military and policy toward West Papua, found himself at loggerheads with parliament. In July 2001, during a tense political struggle, Wahid sought to suspend the Parliament, a power which he arguably was entitled to exercise. Crucially, however, current President Yudhoyono, then the Coordinating Minister for Politics and Security, supported by the military, refused to obey President Wahid’s order to implement a state of emergency. Instead, the military brought 40,000 troops and police into Jakarta. The military’s insubordination amounted to a coup, in which the Parliament subsequently elevated Wahid’s Vice President, Megawati Sukarnoputri, to the presidency. Wahid’s reforms stalled and the Indonesian security forces launched brutal crackdowns on Aceh and West Papua.

President-elect Widodo intends to press forward with reforms, notably to attack corruption. (Indonesia’s effective anti-corruption commission is another target of parliament. ) During his campaign for President, he pledged to investigate the disappearance of 13 political activists in the late 1990s.

He also has signaled a willingness to take a new approach toward the rights of indigenous peoples, and more specifically to pursue new policies toward West Papua (see September 2104 West Papua Report). The recently ended parliament, meanwhile, failed to pass legislation protecting customary land rights of the archipelago’s indigenous people and other ways empower them within the confines of Indonesian law.

Military Reform

The President-elect has said little regarding the need to reform the military or to make it accountable for its criminal actions, corruption and notably its long history of human rights abuse and lack of accountability. During the campaign he spoke of his desire to increase the military budget. The Indonesian military can expect a harmonious relationship with the new President. There is at least one area, however, where a reform-oriented Widodo administration could wind up at cross purposes with the TNI. Notwithstanding the legislative requirement to dismantle its empire of legal and illegal businesses by 2009, the TNI remains deeply involved in all manner of enterprises. If President Widodo were determined to attack the systemic corruption that pervades the Indonesian economy, he would inevitably run-up against powers within and allied to the TNI elite.

A key platform for TNI financial and commercial interest is West Papua where it has long been deeply engaged in the exploitation of the vast natural resources. Logging and other forest operations, rent-taking from major international corporate operations such as Freeport-McMoran and BP, and diversion of state funds intended for "development" have long assured the flow of wealth into TNI coffers.

West Papua

President-elect Widodo has also signaled an openness to dialogue with West Papuans and even spoken publicly of his intention to end the restrictions which severely limit access to or travel within West Papua for international journalists, UN personnel and human rights and humanitarian NGOs. He has spoken of creating a special Presidential office there to facilitate communications with Papuans. (See September 2014 West Papua Report)

These changes in the way a Widodo administration wants to deal with West Papua harken back to reforms pursued by President Wahid, who made symbolic gestures such as allowing Papuans to fly their own morning star flag, while he engaged in dialogue about substantive issues. It is likely that such new thinking toward West Papua has not gone down well with the TNI. In any discussions, Papuans will certainly convey their long-standing concern over the militarization of West Papua, the continuing violations of human rights there by the security and intelligence forces, and the systematic lack of accountability for that abuse.

The TNI would likely oppose any lifting of the veil behind which it and police abuse and intimidate the Papuan population. Open access to West Papua by international journalists and other observers would expose TNI brutality and criminality.

The recent arrest and continued detention of two French journalists could well be a message from the military to Widodo that his good intentions vis-a-vis Papuans are unwelcome and unacceptable. The fate of an earlier reform-oriented Indonesian President will presumably weigh on this new one.

Sign ETAN’s Petition to U.S. Government

Release the Records,
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Rights Groups Urge Police to Provide Security to West Papua Human Rights Defenders

Prominent rights groups have urged the police to provide better security and protection for human rights defenders working in West Papua. In a joint statement, the groups, said in part: "We deplore the attitude of the police force in handling cases related to human rights defenders."

Nasional Papua Solidaritas (Napas), Aliansi Mahasiswa Papua (Papuan Student Alliance, AMP). the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (KontraS), the Komite Persiapan Federasi Mahasiswa Kerakyatan (Preparatory Committee of the Federation of Student Democracy, KP-FMK) issued the statement.

NAPAS’s Elias Petege, told SuaraPapua that NGOs in Jakarta had received information concerning police pressure targeting Gustaf Kawer, and acts of violence by unknown people against Latifah Anum Siregar. Petege noted that both had been "defending the oppressed people of Papua."

Petege noted that the international community has been precluded from monitoring developments in West Papua, efforts to silence those active in West Papua’s "democratic space" had continued.

Hariz Azhar, coordinator of KontraS contended that law enforcement officials need to comply with Law No. 18/2003 dealing with lawyers, in particular Articles 14, 15 and 16. Azhar asserted that Gustaf’s conduct in defending his client was clearly within the law.

The groups called on the Indonesian government to protect human rights defenders in West Papua, as recommended in the Universal Periodic Review in 2012. They urged the government to conduct a full and independent investigation of violence against human rights defenders. The groups said that the police must end the prosecution of Kawer and to investigate violence committed against Anum Siregar.

NGO’s Raise West Papua Access at UN

Indonesian and international NGOs jointly addressed the UN Human Rights Council to demand the Indonesian government improve freedom of expression in the provinces of Papua and West Papua. They also called for release of the detained French journalists.

In mid-September Franciscans International, joined with 21 other groups, to urge the government of Indonesia to improve access for foreign journalists to West Papua and allow the long-postponed visit of UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression to take place. The appeal called for the immediate release of the imprisoned French journalists Thomas Dandois and Valentine Bourrat. The journalists have been held since early August.

Poengky Indarti, Executive director of Imparsial, told the Jakarta Globe that "the tight restrictions around foreign media access to Papua were unhelpful." She said "It creates the impression that Papua is closed for international reporting."

Jakarta Foreign Correspondents Club Likens Detention of French Journalists to Suharto Era

The Jakarta Foreign Correspondents Club (JFCC) expressed concern over the continued detention without charge of two French journalists. The JFCC wrote that in previous visa violation cases foreign journalists were simply deported. The JFCC calls "he continuation of restrictive state policies on journalists reporting in the Papua region, which are a sad reminder of the Suharto regime, and a stain on Indonesia’s transition to democracy and claims by its government that it supports a free press and human rights."

The statement concludes with an appeal to President-elect Widodo "to immediately lift all restrictions on foreign journalists travelling to the Papua region. These restrictions only harm Indonesia’s international reputation as a country that values press freedom, and encourage inaccurate and simplistic reporting of the issues in the region." (See full statement at )

More Calls for Media Access in West Papua

The New Zealand Council of Trade Unions (NZCTU) has called on New Zealand Prime Minister John Key to pressure Indonesian President Joko Widodo to release two French journalists and a West Papuan indigenous leader from prison.

The NZCTU joined others, including West Papua Action Auckland, representatives of the Melanesian community, and the Green Party, in demanding that the National Party government act on behalf of journalists Thomas Dandois and Valentine Bourrat and West Papuan indigenous leader Areki Wanimbo, who was arrested after giving journalists an interview.

The Pacific Freedom Forum (PFF) called on President-elect Joko Widodo to keep his campaign promise to open up access to West Papua. The PFF Co-Chair Monica Miller said that Widodo’s failure to take action would raise questions about who really controls West Papua.

New Zealand’s West Papua Action Auckland organized a vigil on September 23 to call attention to the absence of press freedoms and other human rights issues in West Papua. The vigil urged the New Zealand government and the French Embassy in Wellington to press Indonesia to free the French journalists and their sources. Maire Leadbeater of West Papua Action Auckland said "the only way journalists could get stories out of West Papua was by bending the rules." She spoke against the "intense interrogation" by the Indonesian military of West Papuan activists who met with Dandois and Bourrat.

Plantation in Papua Source of Greenhouse Gases

Tangke Mangi, an official from Merauke, has told the local daily Bintang Papua that the area’s alarmingly high greenhouse gas emissions rate results from deforestation with the Merauke Regency’s contributing nearly half of the Papua province’s emissions. Mangi told Bintang that the high rate results from rapid forest degradation caused by the huge agro-development project known as the Merauke Integrated Food and Energy Estate (MIFEE) . Unless action is taken, emissions are expected to increase as more companies take up permits at the estate. (WPAT Note: see below)

Papuan Conference in Vanuatu Postponed

The West Papua Reunification Committee announced that the Papuan conference scheduled to open at the end of September in Vanuatu has been postponed until December 1-4. Many of the expected 80 Papuan participants reportedly encountered travel difficulties. The conference is intended to formalize a unified bid for membership in the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG).

The MSG deferred action on an application by the West Papua National Coalition for Liberation in 2013, urging instead a more representative bid from a broader representation of Papuans.

New Violence in West Papuan Highlands

The Jakarta Globe reported on September 25 that an Indonesian soldier was killed during an armed attack on four soldiers at an Ilaga market in the Central Highlands Puncak regency. The other soldiers were not hurt. According to military sources cited by the Globe, 10 people were involved in the attack, which followed a July attack on a military post in Tingginambut, also in Puncak Jaya District. The Globe reports notes that the OPM is active in the area. As noted in West Papua Report coverage of the July incident , the OPM activity in the past has prompted a heavy response by Indonesian security forces

Komnas HAM Holds Inquiry on Land Disputes

The National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) launched a series of public meetings in September that will focus on land disputes. The hearings will include public sessions in West Papua as well as in North Sumatra, Banten, West Kalimantan, and Maluku. Land disputes have long been a point of tension in Indonesia, often pitting major corporations or wealthy Indonesians against local landowners. Frequently, the major corporate interests enjoy the support of security forces.

Further complicating the issue, as noted by AMAN secretary-general Abdon Nababan, are conflicts of interest within the Forestry Ministry, which now handles almost all aspects of forest management, including forest production, forestry planning, and forest protection and conservation. This accounts for the government’s lack of initiative in settling the country’s customary land disputes, he explained. To avoid a further conflicts of interest, Abdon said that the new administration of president-elect Widodo dissolve the Forestry Ministry and split its current duties among other ministries.

"The absence of formal procedure to settle disputes over customary land has forced businesses and indigenous communities to rely on informal agreements to prevent further conflicts. In West Papua, there is a long history of businesses ignoring indigenous communities’ customary land rights or breaking deals struck between the communities and the businesses" writes the Jakarta Post.

Lawmakers and the government representatives were deliberating a bill on the Recognition and Protection of the Rights of Indigenous People (PPHMA) to create a means for indigenous people to register their communities and to map their customary areas. This would have implemented a court ruling that restricted the state’s authority over customary forests. But the DPR ended its session without acting on a bill.
In May 2013, the Constitutional Court ruled in a review filed by the Indigenous People’s Alliance of the Archipelago (AMAN) that articles in the existing 1999 Forestry Law contradicted the constitution. The provisions prevented indigenous people from collectively using natural resources in their territories The court restricted the authority of the state over customary forests located in the territories of indigenous people.

"Our hopes now lie in the hands of the president- and vice president-elect since they promised that they will commit to protecting and empowering the rights of indigenous people," said environmental policy expert Noer Fauzi Rachman .

U.S. Military Apache Helicopter Joint-Training Exercise Enhances TNI Capacity to Strike Papuan Targets

Garuda Shield 2014, a joint Indonesian-US training operations included familiarization for TNI units that will deploy with the U.S.-supplied AH-64 Apache helicopters. As has been noted in previous WPAT commentary, these helicopters significantly enhance TNI capability to conduct "sweep" operations in West Papua. Such "sweep" operations have had devastating impact on Papuan civilians, who repeatedly have been driven from their villages by attacking Indonesian security forces, purportedly pursuing armed pro-independence fighters.

The Garuda Shield 2014 exercise "is a bilateral, tactical military exercise sponsored by U.S. Army Pacific Command and hosted by the Indonesian armed forces. Approximately 1,200 personnel from U.S. Army and Indonesian Armed Forces will conduct a series of training events focused on what the US military euphemistically describes as peace support operations."


Al Jazeera on Media Freedom in West Papua

Al Jazeera America published a lengthy commentary and analysis about media freedom in West Papua that includes a detailed account of the intimidation of journalists including the French journalists now in Indonesian custody in West Papua. The anonymous author writes: "While the government says journalists can travel freely in some parts of West Papua, as tourists can, reporters inquiring about political and human rights issues are routinely denied the permit required to enter. The policy amounts to a de facto ban on real reporting and is condemned by the United Nations, Western governments and human-rights organizations."

Fiji NGO Urge Support for West Papuans

Fiji’s Coalition of Human Rights pledged to lobby its government to "take a stand on behalf of our Papuan brothers" who are "suffering human rights violations, discrimination and abuse." Rights activist Ms. Shamima Ali told the media that it was important for Fiji, as a Pacific brother, to join the fight against torture and human rights violations in West Papua.

The Scottish Precedent

A September 24 article in The Interpreter, discusses self-determination in West Papua in the context of the recent vote on Scottish independence. The article, "Scotland: Indonesia is Watching" cites Papuan activist Benny Wenda as telling Scots that he hopes one day Papuans would some day get the same chance at self-determination.

For its part, the Jakarta Post noted in an editorial comment: Scotland’s peaceful referendum showed Indonesia that in a democracy, "There are civilized ways of dealing with independence aspirations other than treating them as a security threat," including respecting cultural differences, engaging in meaningful dialogue, and devolving certain powers to the regions to give them more direct control over their assets and development. (WPAT Comment: Interestingly, the Jakarta Post did not go so far as advocating the "civilized way" of a "peaceful referendum" for Papuans.)

Johannes Nugroho, writing in the Jakarta Globe on September 19, offers a different, thoughtful assessment of Jakarta’s handling of the challenges it faces in West Papua:

"The best Indonesian leader to deal with the Papuans was perhaps President Abdurrahman Wahid, who had enough sensitivity to recognize that a change of name was in order for Papua, previously called Irian Jaya. He even allowed the Papuans to fly their ‘Bintang Kejora’ flag, an act that is considered treason nowadays. The same sensitivity, regrettably, is lacking today in Jakarta, where the conventional wisdom has it that Papuan separatism is rooted in economics. Indeed, there is a widespread belief among our bureaucrats that when these easternmost provinces are brought to the same levels of development, education and prosperity as the rest of the country, the desire for separatism will cease.
"Unfortunately, this hypothesis fails to take into account the crucial questions of ethnohistorical identity and culture. The people of Papua, racially as well as culturally, have less in common with the largest ethnic group in the country, the Javanese, than the people of Aceh. Therefore, Jakarta’s attempts to ‘Indonesianize,’ or rather, in most cases, ‘Javanize’ the two provinces, will only store up trouble for the future.
"As the Scottish case has demonstrated, more than economics is needed to make a political union relevant to minority groups like the Papuans. Greater sensitivity is overdue in the way Jakarta seeks to discourage Papuans from separatism. Perhaps the best way to keep them in our unitary state is to protect their right to be Papuan, unique in their own history and traditions, rather than try to make them more like the rest of the country."

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Benny Wenda nominated for Nobel Peace Prize again

October 6, 2014

Benny Wenda nominated for Nobel Peace Prize again

OCTOBER 3, 2014

The Free West Papua Campaign is delighted to announce that for the second year in a row, Free West Papua Campaign founder Benny Wenda has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Benny Wenda speaking at the Oslo Freedom Forum in 2012

The Nobel Peace Prize is a prestigious international award, given to some of the most prominent and well known campaigners for peace in the world. The Nobel Committee which presides over and awards the Prize gives it to the people or organisations who have “done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses”. Past Nobel Peace Laureates include Nelson Mandela, Aung San Suu Kyi , Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and Jose Ramos Horta

Benny was successfully nominated last year after his nomination was accepted by the Norwegian Nobel Committee. He has been successfully nominated again this year by a number of renowned dignitaries including parliamentarians from around the world and his nominators received a letter confirming the approval of their nomination from the Nobel Committee this April.

Benny has been nominated as he has devoted his life to a just and peaceful solution to the conflict in West Papua, the western part of the island of New Guinea. West Papua, which is illegally occupied by Indonesia, continues to experience a slow genocide that has killed an estimated half a million Papuans since 1961. The struggle for peace and self-determination in West Papua has remained largely unreported, since Indonesia restricts the entry of foreign journalists and humanitarian organisations: in the face of this silence the efforts of Benny Wenda are all the more courageous and vital. You can read more about Benny’s story, including his wrongful imprisonment and brave escape here.

The nominators

This year, Benny was jointly nominated by:

Moana Carcasses Kalosil:
Former Prime Minister of the Republic of Vanuatu and current Vanuatu Opposition Leader

Catherine Delahunty: Member of the New Zealand Parliament and Green Party Spokesperson for the Environment, (Mining, Toxics) Education and the Treaty of Waitangi

Ralph Regenvanu:
Member of the Vanuatu Parliament and President of the Land and Justice Party

Benny was also nominated individually by:

Rt Revd John Pritchard: Bishop of Oxford, United Kingdom

The winner of this years Nobel Peace Prize will be announced next Friday on 10th October so please do keep Benny in your hearts and prayers. He has recently been invited to Norway by the esteemed Oslo Freedom Forum and will be present in the country during the award ceremony. Benny is one of 278 candidates to be officially registered by the Nobel Committee and we very much hope that he will be chosen to receive the prize.

The Free West Papua Campaign and Benny would like to take this opportunity to thank all our friends and supporters around the world who continue to work tirelessly for peace in West Papua by raising awareness and building essential support internationally. We are sure that with such help from supporters around the world, Benny’s “peace plan” will come to light in West Papua and the dream of such peace and freedom for West Papua will one day come true.

Benny is available for media interviews and other media related inquiries and can be contacted here: office
Press contact number: +447833114087


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